In today’s fast paced, technology driven world, many people are using the internet to accomplish things that were previously done in other venues. This is true of the pursuit of higher education as well. According to a report by the Sloan Consortium, in 2006 the number of students studying for degrees online exceeded 3 million. Choosing to study online does not mean that the student must sacrifice quality for convenience. Students who prefer to achieve their degree online are no longer limited to internet only universities and schools. To meet the increasing demand for online education, many established, traditional institutions of higher learning are adding online study to their curriculum. By supplementing the conventional university model of learning with the virtual classroom, these universities are allowing a greater number and variety of students to earn accredited degrees from academic institutions with long standing reputations.
The type of online education offered at traditional universities is varied. While smaller schools such as Pace University offer a limited selection of disciplines for online degrees, larger schools often present the student with a wide variety of fields of study. The University of Massachusetts, for example, offers 83 degree and certificate programs and over 1500 courses online. Some of the traditional universities reserve online study for Graduate level coursework, but many others allow a student to obtain degrees from the Associate level all the way up through a Doctorate in certain fields. At some universities, there is the option of blended study, which is a mixture of online courses and courses taken onsite at the university. For individuals who started but never completed their Bachelor’s Degree, many of the traditional universities have designed programs that allow students to return to the classroom via online study and finish their degree. These programs usually offer a broad based curriculum that the student completes over a set period of time.
One of the advantages to studying online at a traditional university is that the student has access to the same level of resources as students who are on campus. Online students often receive the same education from the same professors as the students who physically attend the university. Often, academic advisors are available to the student. Many traditional universities allow access to their libraries online for students to obtain information via e-books, e-reports and journals. Many have librarians available to help online students with questions 24 hours a day. Frequently, online students are allowed the same access to financial aid as on campus students.
Tuition varies depending on the university. Some online programs are much less expensive than the on campus equivalent. Other universities, however, charge the same tuition fees regardless of a student’s residency status.
The demand for online higher education will no doubt continue to increase in the coming years. With more traditional universities entering the online market and each of them taking a different approach to the online education model, students should continue to see a wider variety of educational options open to them in the future.